We are only hours away until the first international football tournament kicks off in sunny* London across a host of non-league venues. Sixteen teams from across the globe are representing nations, territories and groups of people not recognized by FIFA to be crowned CONIFA World Football Cup champions. Forty-eight matches will rank these sixteen sides over the course of nine days, with the final taking place on June 9th at Enfield Town FC, the de-facto hub of the competition.
(*weather is almost certainly permitting, it is England after all!)
Who are the teams?
The teams competing this summer are coming from all across the world, with the Barawa acting as hosts. The majority of the sides are coming from Europe, including the Isle of Man (competing under their Manx name Ellan Vannin), the highest ranked side in the competing the Panjab, European champions Padania and World Champions Abkhazia. They’re joined by late arrivals Karpatalya, local favourites Northern Cyprus, Western Armenia and the Szekely Land. Kabylia and Matabeleland represent the continent of Africa alongside the hosts, while Tibet earned themselves a wild card and will represent Asia with the United Koreans in Japan side. Tamil Eelam’s roots lie in Asia but are made up of mainly British-based players, similar to the Panjab side. North America’s only teams are Cascadia, a bioregion from Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, while Tuvalu will have the furthest to travel, as they make the arduous journey from the South Pacific.
What’s the format?
Sixteen teams are split into four groups of four, with each side playing each other once. The top two teams qualify for the quarter finals, meanwhile the bottom two side are entered into the placement matches. It’s then a simple knockout format played out across five days, with the eventual champions crowned next Saturday. If you want a more detailed look at how the tournament may play out, you can download your very own wall chart here.
Where are the matches being played?
Although many professional clubs were contacted regarding hosting matches, CONIFA decided to go down the non-league root, where the values of the clubs and players involved are closer aligned to CONIFA’s. The opening ceremony will be held at Hayes Lane (Bromley FC), while the final will take place at the Queen Elizabeth II Stadium (Enfield Town FC). Colston Avenue – home of Carshalton Athletic – hosts both semi-finals, while Ganders Green Lane (Sutton United), Coles Park (Haringey Borough) and Arbour Park (Slough Town) will kick off the tournament on May 31st as hosts. St Paul’s (Fisher FC), Bedfont Recreation Ground (Bedfont FC), Parkside (Aveley FC) and Larges Lane (Bracknell Town FC) will also be offering their services.
This all sounds great, how do I get involved?
If you want more information about the tournament and CONIFA then you can check out their website and Twitter page here. Tickets for every match are only £10 and £1 goes to support your team of choice, and are selling out fast, so make sure you pick them up soon. This is going to be a once-in-a-lifetime event happening in London, and I encourage everyone to go and witness history unfold on your doorstep.